Today would be your 77th birthday.
I would have flown home.
Maybe I’d have surprised you.
Knocked on the door and waited for you to open it before announcing my surprise.
You would have been so happy.
You’d have said something like, “Well I never” … and then given me a big hug and a kiss.
Mum would have come to the hall to see what the commotion was about and would be so happy to see me.
I’d give her a big hug and a kiss and say how well she looked.
Then Jill would pop her head around the corner, with Otis in her arms, and shout “Surprise!”
You’d both be in shock.
The happiest of shocks.
You would push past me to give her a big hug.
For you Dad, it would be the first time you met her.
The first time you’d even know of her.
But you’d love her.
Not just because she’s wonderful, beautiful, smart and [occasionally] funny.
Not just because she makes me happier than anyone else in the World.
But because she loves me.
Knowing I’d found someone who I want to take care of and who wants to take care of your precious boy would make you so happy.
And then you’d both look down and see your grandson, being held in Jill’s arms.
I’d look at you both and smile to myself knowing how hard it would have been for you to welcome Jill before you got to Otis.
Your precious grandson.
The little man that, despite having never met him in person, was already someone you loved more than almost everyone else.
And each other.
I would watch as Mum gently pinches his cheek and said, “Carina Carina” while you Dad, would kiss his head and said what a big boy he was.
You would stare at him for an age.
Commenting on his eyes.
His Michelin-man arms.
You’d introduce yourself as his grandparents.
I’d hear the thrill in your voice as you said it.
Granddad. Nonna. Words you’d patiently waited years to say.
And after giving Jill another kiss, I’d watch as you both slowly turn around.
As you looked at me, I’d see such pride on your face as you told me, “He’s beautiful”.
And I would feel the rush of emotion flood over me because I’d be so happy.
Happy that you’re both so happy.
Happy that we were finally all together.
Happy because I’d made you proud.
But sadly I know none of this will happen.
I wish it was because I know what would really happen is you’d grab Otis from Jill’s arms the moment you saw him, and kissed his cheeks over and over again. Then – before finally handing him to Mum to cuddle – you’d take him into the lounge and explain what all the beautiful flowers in the garden were.
But that’s not the reason, even though I wish it was.
The fact is you’re not here.
I’m not able to surprise you.
I’m not going to be able to watch you meet the family members you didn’t even know you had.
I know we’re not a religious family but I hope you will forgive me this moment of fantasy sentimentality.
You see while I can accept I’m not going to ever be able to play out the little scene I’ve just described, I need to believe you and Mum are now together.
Catching up. Hanging out. Talking and debating.
I know it’s ridiculous and I can see you shaking your head with a wry smile on your face, but it’s incredibly important to me.
Besides, after 16 years apart, it would be the best present you could have.
The best present you both deserve.
I miss you Dad.
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